Egmont National Park

Image © Sophie Turner


Taranaki is a mountain volcano, which looks almost too perfect to be real. The 2518m high mountains, known also as Mount Egmont, is one of the most symmetrical stratovolcanoes in the world. Its visual power dominates the otherwise surrounding plains and makes it seem like a sentinel watching over the landscape, witnessing the environmental transformations that have taken place around it over time. In legend it is believed that Mount Taranaki was once situated inland next to Mount Tongariro, but one day the pair fought and Taranaki, the loser, moved out to the coast where he now resides. The park is ecologically important because of its distinctive vegatation zones that change according to altitude. At lower levels rimu and rata dominate, while kamahi is more prevalent in the stunted high-altitude forest. Following the park’s establishment, the surrounding forest was cleared for pasture. This turned the park into an island, as its Eden-like circular form provided a major contrast to the neighbouring farmland that satellite images strikingly reveal.



In 1840 the surveyor Charles Heaphy painted this watercolour of Mount Taranaki. The painting places center stage the mountain’s perfect conical form, that is ringed with forest and a foreground made up of flat, green land. It portrays to a prospective settler an empty, fertile land lying in wait of European hands to transform it from wilderness into cultivated farmland. This form of painting, known as ‘boosterism’ actively sold the prospect of settlement ton people living on the other side of the globe.

Heaphy, Charles, 1820-1881 :Mt Egmont from the southward, September 1840
Image © National Library of New Zealand

A Circular Park

In 1881 surveyors marked out a 9.6km radius from the centre of the moun- tain to delimit a potential reserve, and in 1900 Egmont National Park was established to occupy much of this area.Later the park was extended to its current 335 km2 area.

Image © Stuart Rankin

Project Taranaki Mounga

The NEXT Foundation’s ‘Project Taranaki Mounga’ seeks to restore the ecology around the mountain Taranaki. This is being done by removing all invasive predators so indigenous animals and plants, like the native foxglove, harvestman spider and kokopu shown here, can flourish.

Images © David Cook (left), Jon Sullivan (top right), Cbeard (bottom right)

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